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In the beginning, IIRC, zombies were undead creatures created and controlled by voodoo priests or priestesses. What work of scifi was the first to break that tradition by depicting zombies as uncontrolled, reanimated dead humans that craved live flesh?

16

Night of the living Dead (1968)

[NOTLD poster

Romero revolutionized the horror film genre with Night of the Living Dead; per Almar Haflidason, of the BBC, the film represented "a new dawn in horror film-making". The film has also effectively redefined the use of the term "zombie". While the word "zombie" itself is never used - the word used in the film is ghoul - Romero's film introduced the theme of zombies as reanimated, flesh-eating cannibals. Early zombie films like Victor Halperin's White Zombie (1932) and Jacques Tourneur's I Walked with a Zombie (1943) concerned living people enslaved by a Voodoo witch doctor; many were set in the Caribbean.

As far as I know that's the first real zombie movie, and post-voodoo zombies did not start in print.

  • 1
    The Last Man on Earth (1964), with Vincent Price, started moving things in the mindless-maneater direction, although it was a more vampiric than zombieish. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Last_Man_on_Earth_%281964_film%29 – Wayfaring Stranger Nov 4 '12 at 14:59
  • @WayfaringStranger - Yeah, that's true, there are definitely proto-zombies through-out print and film, but most credit Night of the living Dead for introducing the concept of zombies as we think of them today. – Mark Rogers Nov 4 '12 at 16:25
  • I was thinking this doesn't really count as the undead are called "ghouls" and not "zombies". I would be interested to know where the Z-word was first associated with the roving, flesh-eating undead. – John Sensebe Mar 31 '16 at 14:07
  • Sure, feel free to ask a new question on the site. I think this particular question wasn't specifically about the word itself. – Mark Rogers Mar 31 '16 at 14:26
4

I provided this as an answer elsewhere but it's also relevant here. The first "modern" zombie apocalypse was actually in the Epic of Gilgamesh:

I will knock down the Gates of the Netherworld,
I will smash the door posts, and leave the doors flat down,
and will let the dead go up to eat the living!
And the dead will outnumber the living!

The Voodoo concept of a zombie is therefore actually the more recent one.

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